The Australian Department of Finance and Deregulation appointed
GHD in 2011 to undertake the feasibility, design and construction
phase services of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI) Aircraft
Pavement Refurbishment Project on behalf of the Department of
Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport.
The airport plays a significant role in the life of the local
community. All goods and services delivered to CKI are by either
ship or aircraft. These delivery services are dependent on
facilities, the weather and limited local resources. During the wet
season when the unloading of ships is not possible, the delivery of
essential food, supplies and services is dependent on airfreight.
The CKI Aircraft Pavement Refurbishment works aimed at extending
the life of the aircraft pavement.
Due to the project’s successful completion, the community now
has a safe and dependable aerodrome, securing the islands’ supply
chain, supporting the delivery of medical, fresh food and public
transport services to the islands.
Key to the project’s success was the research undertaken by GHD
to understand the original design and conditions, as well as the
natural environment. As a sensitive and unique atoll in the Indian
Ocean, access to the site is restricted, to ensure the impact on
the local environment is minimal. Due to the isolated location of
the airport, careful consideration was required for procurement and
Originally constructed in 1952, the runway’s pavement
construction consisted of coral with the subgrade a coral sand,
posing an unusual engineering challenge. After not receiving major
maintenance to aircraft pavement surfaces for approximately 27
years, the surfaces had deteriorated. The necessary maintenance
activities to address pressing operational and safety concerns
included patching, minor shape correction and a re-seal. Due to the
remote nature of the islands, it was important to provide an asset
that was easy to maintain by local employees, who generally lacked
experience in this area. To assist in the transfer of maintenance
skills to the local airport management staff, our team prepared a
comprehensive maintenance manual. This included a range of
photographs demonstrating the most common maintenance requirements,
along with detailed instructions for their treatment.
Together with the department, GHD has created an important
transport asset for the CKI community, with improved reliability
and increased capacity for freight and passenger flights. There is
also an additional benefit of enabling new construction contracts
to be undertaken. In addition, the refurbishment has provided both
security and consistency for the community due to the increase of
Australian Air Force flights, scheduled domestic flights and the
significant upturn in government chartered aircraft.